The New York Giants cut one of their top cornerbacks and a punter prior to the start of free agency. They haven’t added a true replacement for either.
The punter is likely to come from the draft, or more likely after the draft. The Giants were closely watching Rutgers’ Ryan Anderson at his pro day last week, and are believed to be on the prowl for a punter. They should be able to fill that need with an undrafted free agent.
Cornerback is another story completely. They cut Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to rid themselves of his $8.5 million cap number just over a week ago, and haven’t exactly found an equitable replacement. They’re not expected to in free agency either, even though they’re on the prowl for bargains.
The Giants are not currently looking to spend big on any more free agents, according to multiple sources. They’re still assessing some cheaper options, but that’s it at this time.
There are some cornerbacks available, even if they don’t necessarily fill Rodgers-Cromartie's spot in the slot. The Giants are still believed to be monitoring the market for Ross Cockrell, who played well as a fill-in starter last season and was respected in the locker room. Cockrell was one of the first in the building every morning and among the team’s hardest workers, according to one teammate. He remains a possibility.
Other veterans such as Delvin Breaux, Tramon Williams, Byron Maxwell, Jeremy Lane and Alterraun Verner are also still available. It’s possible – likely, even – that the Giants could add another veteran cornerback before the start of the season, especially if they don't add one in the draft.
It’s not that they haven’t added bodies in the secondary. They have. They’ve signed Curtis Riley, B.W. Webb and Teddy Williams. Two of the three (Webb and Williams) didn’t play in an NFL game last season. Riley wasn’t tendered by the Tennessee Titans as an exclusive-rights free agent, meaning the Titans didn’t want him at the minimum salary for a player with his experience. That’s not exactly encouraging.
The Giants are thin at more than a few positions right now (offensive line, running back, linebacker, punter and kicker). Cornerback is among those spots.
This was always a likely scenario given the way everything unfolded last season. Three cornerbacks (Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple and Rodgers-Cromartie) were suspended because of their conduct. For financial and stability reasons, one of the three was likely to be jettisoned this offseason. It just so happened to be Rodgers-Cromartie, who was on the field for just 58 percent of the Giants’ defensive snaps and had a substantial price tag.
That leaves the Giants with Jenkins, Apple and a bunch of guys, with Donte Deayon maybe the most likely option to fill the nickel spot occupied by Rodgers-Cromartie the past few years. Deayon has played well last season when given the opportunity, but he broke his arm after four games.
The Giants seem to be counting on Apple to bounce back from a rough season on and off the field. He was suspended and benched for his conduct last season. New general manager Dave Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur have said that Apple will get a “clean slate.” The first-round pick in 2016 appears a frontrunner for a starting spot.
Even so, the Giants need to add a cornerback, whether in free agency or the draft. Or maybe both. It’s something they are certainly aware of as they try to put together their roster without any costly financial moves.
Donte Deayon (slot)